The DeVille’s, Harry Pearson, and me…

sirjosephweiss

Fleetwood Sound Owners Group
Aug 19, 2022
2
10
3
40
Kingston, NY
I want to post here and tell some of my hifi backstory, as an owner of Fleetwood Sound DeVille loudspeakers and as someone who worked in the audiophile industry. Actually, I own two pairs, one in my home listening system and one in my recording studio. I feel somewhat inclined to mention that what follows is in no way a review. It’s just a little slice of my hifi story. For I am not unbiased. I love these speakers and everyone I know who owns them loves them. I will continue to recommend them to everyone I meet. These speakers make me excited about hifi again.

First, some context. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Joey Weiss and for ten years I set up and maintained all the systems at Harry Pearson’s house while working for the absolute sound magazine and, eventually, HP himself. I assume, on this website, HP needs no introduction. HP’s house in Sea Cliff is the place of many audiophile legends (and probably many audiophile ghosts). While I was there, we had five systems in total and they were all in various stages of incredible. Since I was always warming up and tweaking the systems, I had the fortunate opportunity to spend more time listening to the equipment that came through those doors than anyone, including HP. As you could imagine, I became hooked on great sound. Unfortunately, I also became addicted to the quest for better and better sounding equipment. I was in my twenties, and at that point, was spending all my time touring with my band and recording in studios. Hanging out and listening with HP was a crash course in learning how to really listen to and appreciate recorded music playback. How to parse out the qualities, including imperfections, that certain equipment would relay and how to describe what you are hearing and make the valiant attempt to figure out why. Most importantly, I learned how to approach listening as an artform and to expect a certain caliber of performance during playback. As everyone knows, HP was after the real thing, that’s why he named his magazine the absolute sound. For all the shortcomings of such a limiting standard to adjudge playback equipment, there was a level of understanding that this goal helped him achieve. And he achieved it like nobody else.

In the ten years of listening to the endless parade of equipment that came through HPs house, not to mention at audio shows, manufacturers, private homes, and dealer showrooms, I’ve heard what feels like a lifetime worth of exorbitantly priced audio systems. And I have a lot of stories. Yet, even before HP passed away, I found myself frustrated with most of the sound presentations I was hearing back through these supposedly “world’s best” high end systems. I was finding myself less engaged by the sound and more and more dissapointed on how one-dimensional some of these components sounded. Loudspeakers were the usually the worst offenders.

When I met Jonathan Weiss (no relation) and heard the sound OMA in the Dumbo showroom, it was as if a symphony went off in my head. Rather, it was like a wave of distortion and frustration had been allowed to recede to the background and dissipate. Everything about OMA was the inverse of what I was experiencing in high end audio at the time. The OMA equipment was actually beautiful to look at, with simple and elegant designs, and it sounded like fucking music, real music. The dynamics were there, the dimensionality was there, the details were there, the tone was there. I have been telling people for years that I wish HP could have heard OMA. Not only would he have let go of his prejudice against horns, but I have no doubt he would have found his reference system complete with the Imperias. More than that, it was almost a revelation to see something exciting happening in the two-channel audio world. It has been easy to see the newfound multi-generational enthusiasm in the headphone space for years, at canjams and head-fi meets, but the audiophile scene always felt stuck a generation (or two) behind. I used to wonder if it would ever catch up, but OMA immediately felt like the way forward. It wasn’t just retirees tweaking cable risers in carpeted basements. I saw the future of hifi and it was cool.

One of the most disappointing things I found working in the audiophile industry is that I could never recommend equipment, especially loudspeakers, to my friends without asking them to sacrifice a fortune they didn’t have. And, even if they did break the bank to make something happen, it would be for a sound that would most likely fall flat of expectations considering the high price of entry. Of course, HP is famous for lavishing praise on the most expensive and unobtainable products in audio (he may hold more responsibility than most in helping drive the prices of equipment into the stratosphere). But I can recall many conversations where he talked about the impetus behind starting the magazine in the first place. He wanted to educate his readers and evaluate equipment so that as many people as possible could experience high quality sound in their own home. Full stop. Reading through the early TAS issues, this sense is palpable. The equipment was obtainable, and price was not the main indicator of value, the sound was.

The Fleetwood Sound DeVille is the kind of speaker that HP and I would often talk about wishing into existence. It is a speaker that punches into a far higher class than the price tag or size would indicate (especially in the world of hifi). This is truly breathtaking high end sound in a real world package. When I first heard the DeVille, I was amazed at how much of the OMA sound was coming through. There is something effortless about the sound presentation at OMA, and thankfully that has been passed down to the DeVille. The first thing people mention to me after hearing the Deville’s for the first time is how deeply they are able to connect and get drawn into the music, in a way they have never done before. (This is always the most fun when it comes from people who just minutes before said that an expensive system would go to waste on them because “they couldn’t hear the difference anyway”. They can. We all can. It just takes good sounding equipment and some patience.) The DeVille’s are capable of producing the kind of dynamics, spacial depth, and tonal richness that I once thought was only available with speakers costing closer to six figures.

I love that these speakers are just the right size, compact enough to fit nicely into most homes and substantial enough to feel like a piece of art that will last for decades. The pair I have in the home system is an early prototype and I have been using it for two years. In that time, I have sold off all my other larger (and much more expensive) speakers. I have recommended these to friends and collegues and there are now DeVille’s living in the offices of Downtown Music in NYC and in various recording studios and musician homes across the country. I bought a second pair to use in my recording studio here in the hudson valley. They are an invaluable tool and everyone who comes to record eventually asks me how they can get a pair for themselves. Musicians get it, recording engineers get it, and it seems like the audiophile world may be getting it too.

In the two years of listening to the DeVille’s I have never questioned the sound or desired “more” from my speakers. They are an absolute pleasure to listen to for hours on end. It’s a painful cliché for sure, but here, it is unavoidably true. In my studio, I really do listen to these for hours each day. An honest and complete sense of engagement is the attribute one immediately experiences with this speaker. They go exceptionally well with insane amounts of musical genres. These are not for the “I-only-listen-to-this-kind-of-music” type. These are for the modern music listener who has ecletic tastes, someone that treats music listening as an adventure and a respite. It’s fun to go from solo piano to shaded dogs to Bill Callahan to D’Angelo to Patsy Cline to Moondog to Radiohead to Maria Callas to Kendrick Lamar to the Pixies and back again without sacrificing anything. If the experience is what matters, then the DeVille’s deliver the goods.

I haven’t checked out speakers for sale on Audiogon, USAudioMart, eBay, and all the other usual places for two years. I deleted all my eBay searches for speakers I thought I had to own. Now I just listen to music, by myself, with my family, with my friends, with my clients. These speakers do exactly what you want from a set of loudspeakers, they step out of the way so that I can focus on the music and nothing else.


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jamesdowningelliott

Fleetwood Sound Owners Group
Aug 14, 2022
10
20
5
34
New York, NY
Super well said - I will have to put together my own post about Fleetwood ownership when time permits. I can’t imagine a more informed opinion than a real professional who set up HP’s systems - very glad my ears seems to be reasonably calibrated and that I have had the great fortune of spending time at OMA.

Fleetwoods have stopped my upgraditis for speakers for 2 years - they sound like music and they work very well with all sorts of genres and electronics. Everybody I bring into my listening room has commented on how “real” my system sounds as well as how great they look.
 

Audiophile Bill

Well-Known Member
Mar 23, 2015
4,320
4,035
675
What drivers are being used for the horn and the woofer?
 

Low325

Fleetwood Sound Owner
May 2, 2021
26
9
10
45
nice setups here, thanks for sharing!
 

badgerdms

Fleetwood Sound Owners Group
Aug 15, 2022
8
4
5
60
Great post! What are you currently using to drive the Devilles?
 

sirjosephweiss

Fleetwood Sound Owners Group
Aug 19, 2022
2
10
3
40
Kingston, NY
thanks for the kind words! currently using a pair of RCA BA-24a monitor amps in the home and a Bryston 2.5b cubed in the studio.
 

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